“I certainly respect the Constitution, but we have some issues that are much bigger than the Constitution.”
– Frank Melton, mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, in response to first amendment questions about a proposed ban on ‘saggy pants.’
Thankfully, we can all see what a ridiculous statement this is. However, I wonder: has there been a dangerous ignorance of the Constitution recently? I’ll just point to two examples and leave without further comment.
The Obama stimulus contained an interesting provision: it stated that governors who don’t accept stimulus money may be overruled by their own state legislatures.
Any employee of a company that has received more than $5b in public rescue money that has been paid a gross income of more than $250,000 who received a bonus this calendar year would face a 90 per cent tax on it.
That story itself mentions a constitutional issue or two:
The Constitution forbids any “Bill of Attainder”, legislation aimed at punishing a select group of individuals. The Republican Study Committee, a group of Republican conservatives in the House, said the fact the law was retroactive – affecting bonuses paid since Dember 31 2008 – was a dangerous step.
I don’t particularly think that this law is a “bill of attainder” – after all, all of us paranoid businessmen are taught that with government money comes government strings – but the same phrase in the Constitution prohibits ex post facto laws, laws that retroactively change the government punishment of an action, and is indeed one of the fundamental bases of the rule of law and modern democracies.
As a friend said, a lot of constitutional lawyers are about to make a lot of money.
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